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Solar field's backers ask Toledo Council to invest

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McNamara

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Proponents of a plan to build a municipal solar field on the capped Dura Landfill urged a Toledo City Council committee yesterday to invest in the project and help solidify the city's standing as major player in renewable sources of energy.

The $5 million project has been submitted as part of Toledo's wish list for President-elect Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan.

Steve Weathers, president of Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership, said the project would create jobs and attract national and international attention.

Mr. Weathers also promised to help the city apply for additional funding and tax credits.

Toledo Councilman Joe McNamara wants council to dedicate up to $200,000 next week from its 2009 capital improvement budget to design and engineer the project, making it "shovel ready." He said the city has done nothing to invest in its solar-panel manufacturing companies, yet Toledo claims to be the solar capital of the world.

"We've invested millions of dollars to create and retain automotive jobs in Toledo and we should make a similar investment in this expanding industry," Mr. McNamara said.

Todd Michaelsen, the Ohio/Michigan chapter manager for the National Electrical Contractors Association, said the solar field would pay for itself through energy savings in 15 years. "If we don't get the [federal] funding, it's still the right thing to do," Mr. Michaelsen said. "It's not just about how long until we get the payback there are the ancillary benefits."

Toledo mayoral candidate Keith

Wilkowski proposed in September that $5 million be spent to put solar panels at the former landfill to generate electricity for the city and bolster northwest Ohio's developing solar-energy industry.

"The Dura Landfill solar project will help us build the solar industry and create jobs," Mr. Wilkowski told council's economic development committee.

With $1 million buying about one acre of solar panels, the full five-acre, $5 million field could be financed and built in pieces, said Mr. Wilkowski, who is a lawyer.

Toledo City Council President Mark Sob-

czak said he was told several years ago the city could save up to $12 million a year in electricity bills if it became self-sufficient.

Northwest Ohio is considered a leading region in the country for low-cost solar-panel production.

The Toledo-born company First Solar Inc., headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., but with its sole U.S. factory in Perrysburg Township, has been a strong performer on Wall Street.

John Buckley, director of business development for the company, also offered his support yesterday for the solar field.

Another local solar panel manufacturer and developer is Xunlight Corp. on Nebraska Avenue in Toledo. It received tens of millions of dollars in investment capital from around the world last year.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.

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